Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

The Tao of Popeye March 19, 2011

It seems I’ve always wanted to know who I am and why I am what I am. I smile as I write these words because they remind me of the very first official Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon: “I Yam What I Yam!”

Remember Popeye? He’s a runty, uneducated, playful, squinty-eyed guy with a speech impediment who sails the seven seas, adopted an infant foundling he calls Swee’Pea, and is in love with a tall, skinny drink of water named Olive Oyl. Unfortunately, his nemesis, the musclebound bully Bluto, is also attracted to Olive Oyl and keeps trying to kidnap her. When Popeye comes to her rescue, Bluto beats up on him until he starts feeling weak. Then he eats a can-full of spinach (and occasionally the can itself), which immediately gives him superhuman strength and problem-solving abilities to defeat Bluto. Usually.

I find two characteristics of this flawed little guy of special interest. First, he has found, and regularly uses, a magical panacea which gives him strength. Second, according to Wikipedia, he has a “near-saintly” perseverance to overcome any obstacle to please his sweetheart, Olive Oyl.

Now of course this is just a silly little cartoon meant to entertain and amuse. But like every story ever told by any human anywhere, there’s also an underlying psychological meaning. Why? Because the way the psyche is made influences our every thought, word, and action. So in psychological terms, I could say that Popeye represents the ego which has embraced the vulnerable inner child (Swee’Pea), found a wonderfully helpful way (spinach) to strengthen and stabilize itself enough to overcome adversity (Bluto), and connected with the inner feminine (Olive Oyl).

Why spinach? Well, when I google spinach I discover that its main nutritional element is iron. And when I google iron I find that psychologically it can symbolize inner strength and the will and determination to see things through to the finish. What is it Popeye always says? “I’m strong to the finich. Cause I eats me spinach.”

But Olive Oyl? Surely the name of this goofy, gangly gal can’t mean anything important, can it? Check it out. Apart from its many health benefits, particularly for the heart, olive oil has spiritual meaning. Olives come from the olive tree, which in the Bible is associated with love and charity. And olive oil was used for anointing kings and priests (earthly and spiritual authorities) and for fueling lamps which, of course, bring light, and by association, enlightenment. So psychologically, Popeye’s beloved Olive Oyl symbolizes the healthy inner feminine authority which brings spiritual enlightenment! I love it!

If you’ve read my earlier posts you’ll know why I can relate to Popeye. I’ve adopted an inner orphan.  I strengthen my ego by regularly “digesting” Jungian psychology and dreamwork. I wrestle with an inner bully who’s always trying to steal my feminine authority.  And I persevere in my efforts to connect with the Beloved of my psyche. Like Popeye, I don’t always defeat my bully, but I am getting stronger. And like Popeye’s relationship to Olive Oyl, the partnership between my ego and unconscious is by no means problem free. In fact, my failures are sometimes laughable.

But I, too, am determined to be “strong to the finich. Cause I eats me spinach!” I yam what I yam. And that’s becoming okay with me.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

8 Responses to “The Tao of Popeye”

  1. Thank you for “unpacking” this cartoon, Jean. I’ve got some fun old images now to work with on my inner quest to take care of my Sweet Pea, strengthen Popeye in the face of Bluto and be spiritually nurtured by Olive Oyl.
    Me thinks I’ll eat some some spinach for awhile with olive oil on it!

    Like

  2. insomniac Says:

    Good job. Popeye has always been a favorite of mine. =-)

    Like

  3. QUE Throm Says:

    You know that I love the way you weave stories, fairy tales and the like into meaning for our lives.

    Like

  4. jeanraffa Says:

    Hi Que,

    Thank you. Your lovely comment gives me the chance to say to those not familiar with this way of thinking that finding the underlying meaning in the symbols around you is called living symbolically. It makes life so much more interesting and personally relevant than restricting ourselves to hard scientific facts alone. Life is so much more beautiful and mysterious than that!! (I forsee a future blog post on this topic….)

    But, of course, you of all people already know this. Your home and exquisite art are testaments to the mystery and beauty of life.

    Much love and gratitude to you,
    Jeanie

    Like


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